University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


Monolingual varieties of Spanish in the Colombian provinces of Chocó, Antioquia, and Córdoba demonstrate a pattern of non-canonical limb partonomy in which the lexemes mano and pie can refer not only to ‘hand’ and ‘foot’ but also to ‘arm’ and ‘leg’, respectively. On the surface, this would appear to be a simple case of part-for-whole metonymy; indeed, the semantic extension ‘finger’ > ‘hand’ is well attested cross-linguistically. However, there are vanishingly few cases of ‘hand’ > ‘hand + arm’ or ‘foot’ > ‘foot + leg’ in work on language-internal semantic change. On the other hand this is a rather common outcome in cases of intense historical language contact (e.g., Creole genesis) in which speakers of superstrate languages with distinct lexical items for ‘hand’ vs. ‘arm’ and ‘foot’ vs. ‘leg’ (e.g., English, French, and Portuguese) came into contact with speakers of substrate languages with no such distinction (e.g., Kikongo, Akan, Ijo, etc.). The present analysis demonstrates that this type of substrate semantic influence can also occur in language shift scenarios where radical restructuring (i.e. ‘creolization’) did not occur. Based on linguistic and sociohistorical evidence pointing to the early presence and outsized influence of speakers of Emberá, Kikongo, and Upper Guinea Portuguese-based Creoles, this paper argues that substrate transfer through language shift is the most plausible explanation for the origin of the non-canonical sense of mano for ‘arm’ and pie for ‘leg’ in three varieties of Spanish in northwestern Colombia.



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